My Thoughts

Adventures in Faith


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Walk With GodAdam and Eve decided to fellowship with Satan rather than walk with God (Genesis 3:6-8).  I don’t know how many years took place between Genesis 3 and 6, but future generations also neglected that walk!  Verse 5 tells us that “man’s wickedness” was “great” and “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).  If Noah had made the excuse “that everyone else is doing it,” I would not be writing nor would you be reading this article!  Noah was the “nerd” of his day that was tuned out until men discovered rain!  As usual, a lesson learned too late!

When Noah and his family repopulated the earth, did man learn his lesson?  Again, I’m not sure what the time element was between Genesis 10 to 11, but in 11:4-6 man again maps out his course minus that “walk.”  The goal they sought was building their stairway to heaven!  The only reward gained was the requirement to learn a new language!  Did they “get” the lesson?  As usual, lesson learned too late!

Even those who were righteous had lessons to learn.  Yes, they stumbled.  Perfection escaped them as well as those who followed!  Noah found grace, but it didn’t keep him from experiencing drunkenness and exposing himself while under the influence (Genesis 6:8; 9:21).  Abram (Abraham) enjoyed conversations with Yahweh and had blessings bestowed upon him, but he allowed Pharaoh and Abimelech to take his wife into their harems due to his lies (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-11).  He and Sarah attempted to substitute Hagar and that decision has haunted Abraham’s seed since then.  Lesson unlearned or ignored creates others that can be unpleasant.

God gave His law to Moses, but a lost temper demanded a second attempt (Exodus 32:19).  Although many tried, no one faultlessly kept it.  God was teaching another lesson!  Law demands punishment when broken.  Death is demanded.  Man is incapable of justifying himself by keeping law (Galatians 2:16).  No matter how good a person manages to be, his works are still filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Even the prophet Isaiah stated, “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).  God wanted Israel to recognize their total need for Him.  Sadly, Adam and Eve’s sin is produced by all of us.  We cannot lift ourselves up by pulling on our boot straps!  Yet, this belief that one can help pay part of his sin debt by perfectly keeping law was adopted, even by some in the first century church!

We must depend upon God.  Without Him we are lost!   We cannot save ourselves.  We are the ones in need of a Savior!  Our imperfections keep up from paying any amount of our purchase price from sin!  There are those who continue to believe that their righteousness is their payment to remove their sins and open the door to heaven.  Men continue to suffer from the Adam and Eve syndrome!  Men continue to believe we can build our own staircase to heaven!

Sunday we began our singing with Thank You For the Cross, Lord.

Thank you for the cross, Lord

Thank you for the price You paid

Bearing all my sin and shame

In love You came

And gave amazing grace

This was followed with, Jesus Paid It All, then, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.  After communion we sang, Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross.  Before the Shepherd’s prayer at the end of our assembly, we sang Amazing Grace.

We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  He paid it all.  That’s why we look to the cross and want to stay near it!  He took ALL our sins and in exchange, poured out his righteousness upon us.  Thank you for your amazing grace, Lord!

Lesson learned!


Monday, September 18, 2017

Bible-versionsThe King James Version greeted the reading audience in the 17th century.  Like all new translations, it was not widely nor immediately accepted.  The first edition, would not be readable today!  Revisions took place.  After it was more readily accepted, it became THE Bible for English speaking people.  It sank its roots very deep into our culture as the centuries passed.  In 1901 the American Standard Version was published.  Although Greek scholars touted it as being closer to the Koine Greek than the KJV, it’s popularity refused to develop.  The biggest complaint was that it was like reading Greek rather than English.

The KJV had been around four hundred years when the ASV was published.  People had been committing it to memory for centuries.  For them, the KJV was THE word of God.  Paul spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek.  He wrote in the latter language.  Yet, people developed a dangerous devotion for the KJV, making it the standard which all future translations must be judged by for accuracy.  The projected conviction was that if a passage did not read exactly as given in the KJV, it was not the word of God.  All English versions must be judged by how well they translate the original languages, which makes the Koine Greek the standard for the New Testament and Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old.  Paul nor Moses knew, nor wrote in English!

When the Revised Standard Version was introduced in 1946, it had two counts against it.  Some hardback copies had red covers!  The Cold War between the United States and Russia became full blown by 1947.  Since the covering was “red,” some accused it of being produced by the “Communist”!  Second, it pointed out that several verses were found in later manuscripts, but not the earlier ones.  This indicated they those verses were included by later scribes and were not supplied by the Holy Spirit.  Since those entrees were in the KJV, they had to be legitimate or the KJV would not have contained them.  Therefore, the RSV had to be a “liberal” translation and should be boycotted.  Most churches developed a manmade rule that only the KJV and ASV were allowed in the classroom and pulpit.   Some Bible colleges adopted that rule.  Anyone quoting from the RSV was “suspect”!

The view also developed that the KJV was a “word for word” translation from the Hebrew and Greek texts, whereas modern translations were not.  The conclusion was, if one wanted to know the truth, he must go to the KJV.  Since well known and trusted preachers said it from the pulpit, their conclusions must be so!  Those who had no knowledge about translating, swallowed that reasoning more readily than those who had some experience in it.  Truth is hard to swallow when one has dined on spoon feeding!  Culture, tradition, opinion, and human judgment are difficult to overcome and usually cannot be peeled away over night.  One may see this even in the Jerusalem church with members who continued to believe and practice Phariseeism in dealing with Gentile converts (Acts 11:2; 15:1, 5).

My study Bible and memory work from 1954 until the early eighties, was the KJV.  I still quote from it in articles, classes, and from the pulpit in a comparative way.  Yet, in private devotion or study, I will use several translations.  A few years ago, the KJV was upgraded to the NKJV (New King James Version).  Many KJV readers switched thinking this new version was the KJV without the “thee, thou, and thine” language.  Yet, anyone who compares the two will find the NKJV changes a lot more than those archaic expressions.  Since the eighties I have found it more and more difficult to read from and understand the KJV language.  In fact, in teaching from that version, probably 35 to 40% of the time was spent in explaining the archaic language to our audiences.  If someone my age has that problem in understanding that translation, what about those who are in their teens or just a few years older?  If they can pick up a translation that is more in tune with their understanding of the English language, then God bless them in their studies.  The New Testament was originally given in the Koine Greek.  “Koine” means it was the common language of that day.  In the Roman Empire, it was the second language learned.  Sort of like today where English is learned as a second language in our world.

The purpose of a translation is to bring us to a knowledge of and relationship with our creator God.  He loved us despite our sins and sent His word, to become flesh, and be our sin sacrifice.  Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins, making it possible for us to die to sin and its ultimate reward, and to be in fellowship with Almighty God and have the assurance of our salvation!

It is not, “What Bible do you read,” but “Do you read the Bible” that is important.  Some translations do a better job than others, but most will help you to know that Jesus is the Christ and through him you can have everlasting life (John 14:6).


Thursday, September 14, 2017

PerfectionHave you ever asked someone, “Do you read your Bible?”  Did you get this response?  “Yes, I read it all the time.”  That’s always a welcomed replied.  Yet, not everyone has a good grasp on understanding what they read, nor putting it in context.  When Philip approached the eunuch, the Ethiopian was reading the scriptures (Acts 8:28).  The man needs commending.  1) He was an influential man that loved Yahweh.  2) He had traveled a great distance to Jerusalem to worship.  3) Despite the distance covered, he was under some restrictions due to being a eunuch (Deuteronomy 23:1-2).  4) He probably was a Gentile that was a proselyte to the Jewish faith.  Again, some restrictions.  5) He carried scripture with him and read it.  He was reading when Philip approached him.

Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  Rather than be embarrassed by the question, he replied, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”  He immediately invited Philip to join him in his study.  Philip began by telling “him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:30-31, 34-35).  During that study, a nearby body of water caused the eunuch to ask a question, “Look, here is water.  Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” (Acts 8:36).  Philip had been reading from Isaiah 53:7-8 (Acts 8:32-33).  Isaiah states,

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken(Isaiah 53:7-8).

There is nothing in the passage about “water.”  Neither is there anything about “baptism.”  There is no command given to the eunuch.  Did the eunuch believe Jesus was the one Isaiah was prophesying about?  The passage is silent on him expressing faith.   Is there anything taught by Philip informing the eunuch that he needed to repent of his past sins?  Again, silence.  Was confession mention?  Not by Luke.  How did the eunuch know that he needed to have faith, repent of his sins, confess Jesus as God’s Son, or be immersed if Isaiah 53:7-8 did not mention it?  The only inspired teacher present was Philip.  Prior to meeting with the eunuch, Philip had been doing an outstanding work among the Samaritans.  He preached Jesus to them (Acts 8:5).  They heard him, believed, and were baptized (verse 12).  Why did they believe and then submit to baptism?  Jesus’ great commission was, “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).  The Samaritans wanted to obey Jesus.  So did the eunuch.  Both had to receive that instruction from an inspired teacher.  Scholars estimate that between 100,000 to 300,000 could have heard Peter speak in the Temple courtyards on Pentecost in Acts 2.  Yet, out of that number of hearers, only about three thousand gladly received the apostle’s teaching.  On that occasion, they asked Peter what to do (Acts 2:37).  He gave them the “how” in verse 38.  They responded in verse 41.  The majority rejected the message at that time.  Many do the same today!

Some will read a passage and assume that because an item is not mentioned, it isn’t necessary.  Jesus stated to the apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15).  Did they?  No.  Why?  They did not grasp the full picture, just as the eunuch did not understand Isaiah’s prophecy until Philip came along.  Even today, the complete picture may not always be given in one passage.  Yet, folks will go through this subtracting scenario, building their faith on partial information.  The opposite is also true.  Some will add their perception into a passage being read.  The apostles did this as Jesus commanded the Great Commission in Mark 16:15.  Neither Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John mention a question being asked as to the “who” that “world” included or excluded.  Yet, their thoughts never included the Gentiles unless they were proselytes!  Even when God used the vision to open Peter’s eyes, he refused to comply (Acts 10:9-18).  If an inspired apostle could be blinded by his religious culture and misunderstand the Lord’s word, are we uninspired believer’s superior?

Are we guilty of affirming our success of restoring the first century church, when our efforts are in resurrecting the ideal which most were not maintaining?  If a first century congregation was being corrected, they needed to be restored rather than cloned!  The list of those being corrected is surprising: Jerusalem, Ephesus, Colossians, Sardis, Laodicea, Corinth, Galatia, Romans, Thessalonica, Crete, and Hebrew members.

Sometimes we are so busy looking for the perfect ideal, that we completely bypass Jesus who is perfect!  We may be reading the Bible, but not really understand its message!


Monday, September 11, 2017

End of TimeFrom July 28, 1914 until November 11, 1918, 8,500,000 soldiers lost their lives in what was known as World War I.  The United States entered that war in April 1917 due to German submarines sinking U.S. ships.  During those years, the total death count of military and civilian lives was 41,000,000!

That war caused individuals such as Charles T. Russell, Judge Joseph Rutherford, Mary Baker Eddy, and a multiplicity of others to believe the “end time” was near.  Rutherford wrote and widely distributed a small pamphlet, “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.”  1925 was the date given.  When nothing happened, his organization collected as many copies as possible and destroyed them.

On September 3, 1939 to September 2, 1945 the globe was locked in what was referred to as World War II.  60 million civilians and military deaths occurred with 20 million being military fatalities.  Hitler murdered over 6 million Jews and many believed he was the “666″ of Revelation 13.  However, the end did not come!

With the close of hostilities in 1945, a new war opened up two years later, referred to as the Cold War.  It was between the United States and the Soviet Union.  It ended in 1991 when Russia opened their doors to the West.  In the 1970’s, Hal Lindsey, a Baptist minister, authored “The Late, Great Planet Earth.”  Although Lindsey was hesitant in giving dates, he started with the return of the Jews to Palestine in 1948 and gave a sequence of dates culminating in the early nineties.  The book sold into the millions, but the expected end did not materialize!

In each of these periods, the book of Revelation received a fresh audience.  A new generation of “seers” jumped into the dating game.  Some, when their date refused to develop, simply recalculated and offered a fresh one.  Some took the “666″ of Revelation 13:18 and assigned it to presidents, dictators, and others with bazaar formulas.   Each was rewarded with a limited notoriety and the usual failure.

In June 1992, the Campbell Street congregation sent a mission group to Russia to evangelize.  From time to time individuals were seen on the streets with signs giving October of that year as the end of time.  I took a team back to Russia in October, but the signs had disappeared.  One translator in June had asked, “Aren’t you apprehensive about the world coming to an end?”  I wasn’t.  I don’t put much stock in signs because they can be misread due to misconceptions based upon a misunderstanding of scripture!

The book of Revelation has been dated as late as the nineties, or as early as the late sixties in the first century.  Most accept the late date and give it a progressive fulfillment due to that dating.  That mistaken expectation has been applied by each new generation to signs which they read as the coming end.  Even the first century church expected this end of time scenario.  In spite of Jesus’ statement that only the Father knows, some believe they have been given special insight which was withheld from Jesus (Matthew 24:36).

Most take John’s words in Revelation and apply them to their generation, rather than the one he originally penned it to.  Revelation is not about the end of the universe, but about the time of the end of the first covenant.  The book begins and ends with specific words that are difficult to stretch 2,000 years beyond John’s time.  He writes to first century congregations, not twenty-first century ones (Revelation 2 & 3)!

John warns them of “things which must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1).  If you were the recipient of John’s letter in the first century, what would “shortly come to pass” mean?  What would “for the time is at hand” suggest?  Only someone in 2017 would make “shortly” and “at hand” cover 2,000+ years to force John to say what they believe!

The book ends with, “for the time is at hand” (Revelation 22:10).  Jesus also told John, “Behold, I come quickly” (Revelation 22:12, 20).  When Jesus used the expression “at hand” in Matthew 4:17, no one believed “at hand” meant 2,000 years later.  When Jesus used the word “quickly” in correcting the church at Pergamos, no one believed they would be here in 2017 to “repent” (Revelation 2:16)!  John closes the book with, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).  Was John’s “come” response to Jesus’ “quickly” an immediate or a two millennial one?  If immediate, Jesus was referring to his coming in judgment upon the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. as a fulfillment of Hebrews 8:13.

The book begins with “shortly come to pass” and “for the time is at hand” and ends with “time is at hand,” and “Behold I come quickly.”  John’s response is, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”  If you were watching the weather channel and the announcer said that an F5 tornado was being tracked directly to your house and was “at hand” and would be there “quickly,” would you sit down and begin a 5,000-piece puzzle or immediately seek safety?

I am not concerned with the “when.”  I am interested in thanking Jesus for being my sin sacrifice which gives me full fellowship with my Heavenly Father!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Added or JoinedI have 4,916 FaceBook friends from India, Pakistan, Africa, the Philippines, France, Germany, England, and the USA.  When you befriend one person, they tell their friends.  I didn’t realize I had befriended too many until FaceBook informed me the “cutoff” was 5,000.  Since then, several have dropped out.  Recently, I had an individual to send me a private message stating “I would like your religious church of christ.”  He assured me that he was honest in his request.  From that, I believe he meant he would like to be a member.

I responded to him as follows,

“John, I appreciate your desire to be in the church of Christ, but what is important is first being clothed with Jesus.  If you have a Bible read Acts chapter 2 and see what those folks did for God to save them.”

I’m not sure where John resides, but looking at the way he expressed his desire, it is in another country where English is a second language.  His picture is of a man, probably in his thirties.  I do not know what his background is.  Apparently, he saw the paragraph where I was bragging on the events at Campbell Street on Sunday, August 13 and wanted to join our “church.”

There are two ways that people entered “the church” in the first century.  Some today are misinformed about both.  On Pentecost, Peter preached about Jesus being God’s appointed one (or Messiah/Christ).  Luke informs us, “they gladly received” his message and were baptized.  Then Luke states, “and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”  Verse 47 tells us who did that “adding,” – “and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”  He did not add them to a church building on the corners of Samson and Main Street.  They were added to the body of Christ as were the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:27).  Jesus saves believing, responsive people.  They were the ones added to the saved, which is the body of Jesus!  Since only God does the adding, God is the one who stipulates “how” one gets into that saved category.  A saved person may not belong to a local body of believers, as was true of the eunuch.  After being saved, he went on his way as a Christian, but not identified with a specific congregation like the one in Jerusalem.

The second way is when one who has already been added to the saved, leaves one area and moves to another.  He identifies with others in the new location who were also added by God to the number of the saved.  This is what Saul of Tarsus did.  “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples” (Acts 9:26).  Due to Paul’s previous zeal to persecute Christians, the saved in Jerusalem were fearful of him.  It took Barnabas’ help to eliminate that fear and introduce Paul to the saved as a genuine added one.

If other disciples are absent from an area that a believer moves to, he can use what knowledge he knows to teach others, as the eunuch would have done (Acts 8:35-39).  Of course, the eunuch wasn’t inspired as Paul or Philip were.  So, what he taught to others was restricted to Isaiah’s prophecy and the application that was made from it by Philip (Acts 8:35-38).  Since the eunuch apparently attended synagogue meetings in his home town prior to visiting Jerusalem, he could teach what he had learned in that assembly.  The Jerusalem congregation continued to be zealous for the Law of Moses and frequented the Temple and synagogue.  The eunuch would have continued his weekly habit in his home town at saints in Jerusalem continued it in theirs.  Some believe an assembly of saints existed in his city prior to his trip to Jerusalem, but that would be based on assumption, rather than biblical fact.  If none existed, his only information would be from what Philip had taught him.  Yet, God added him to the saved on the information received from Philip, just as He added the “about three thousand” on Pentecost from what Peter preached.  All the added were in the body of Christ (Romans 7:4; 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 12:27; Ephesians 3:6; 4:12). Whoever the eunuch taught, if they did what he had done, they too would have been added to the saved by God.  They might need more teaching, but they would still be in the number of the saved without it.  As one reads Acts 8, it shows that one is added to the saved without a large audience being assembled.  No one voted on whether he could or could not be accepted as a member.  God adds, not the preacher, elders, deacons, or members.  One may join himself to a group of disciples after God has added him to the saved, but he is already a saved one before that joining takes place.  The main purpose of his baptism was not to get on the roll book of a local group of believers.  The only account of rejecting someone from joining their assembly is because the Jerusalem disciples thought he was still Saul the persecutor rather than Paul the Christian.  Their “fear” could hardly be a tradition of how modern congregations accept or decline a saved person’s desire to assemble with them.  The eunuch’s salvation was not dependent upon him possessing the full revelation of the new covenant.  The same would be true of those he taught.

Today, one might join a local group because they are aligned with his way of thinking, yet his membership may not be in the saved because God has not added him to it.  Membership at Jerusalem did not simultaneously add Paul to the saved.  He was saved prior to assembling with them.

If you think you are saved because your name is on a church roll book, you are living under an assumption rather than upon biblical teaching.  You need to ask yourself if you have been added to the save by God the Father!  If not, you need to learn what the “about three thousand” and the eunuch did (Acts 2:27-41; 8:34-39).


Monday, September 4, 2017

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.  For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. (James 2:10-11 (NIV).

Justification 2Seeking to be justified by law keeping applies to any law.  When that statement is made, some deny the law of Christ is included.  The book of Hebrews, as well as Paul’s epistles, affirm the statement.  Neither James, Paul, nor I discount obedience.  Justification by keeping law is based upon keeping it unbroken!  Is it possible to be successful in keeping that demand?

God gave the Law of Moses to teach a lesson.  First, one could not keep the Law without breaking it.  Even James 2:11 and Galatians 3:10 brings that out.  One may puff up with pride because he is not an adulterer.  But, if he is a murderer, he is just as bad because both are law breakers!  One sin under a law system deserves death or separation from God because law requires punishment!  Second: reality sets in.  Israel realized they could not do perfection.  Learning they could not be perfect and sustain it, they needed to turn for salvation to the one who is perfect.  Sometimes, the lesson taught is not always learned!  No one has ever been successful in gaining perfection.  Therefore, one must turn 100% to God for his justification through Jesus’ perfection.  This is done through faith!  Yet, this “justification by law keeping” was carried over by the sect of Pharisees in the first century church.  It has been successfully restored in the one today (Acts 15:1,5).

If one believes the New Testament is just God giving us a new set of laws that we are to keep flawlessly to save ourselves, he misunderstands.  If we are justified by keeping New Testament law, where is Mr. or Mrs. Perfection?  Only the arrogant believe they have reached and maintained that impossible dream.   If the law of Christ is parallel to the Law of Moses, then perfection is demanded by both.  That means justification is pointless if we cannot reach and maintain that perfection.  According to James and Paul, if we break one requirement or fail in doing one, we are guilty of all.  Let’s say a person is involved in doctrinal error concerning worship.  Another tells a “white” lie.   The “white lie” sinner believes he is faithful but he disfellowships the other.  He believes that his infraction of law keeping is not as bad as the one he is no longer in fellowship with!  What is the fault of both?  If perfection is demanded by law keeping, both have failed in keeping that demand.  Both are guilty of breaking the law!  How?  “Justification by law keeping” demands perfection.  Break one and one is guilty of breaking all!  The adulterer is just as condemned as the murderer and vise-versa.  Therefore, the liar is back in the kingdom of darkness, standing side by side with the one who is guilty of doctrinal error!  According to that view, if the liar dies before he can ask for forgiveness, but the one in doctrinal error confesses, the liar dies unjustified.  Law is his accuser!  He is a law breaker and punishment is death or eternal separation from God (John 8:21, 24)!

Justification by law keeping creates people who believe their salvation is based upon their ability to keep that law without fault.  Since there are multiple ways of breaking it, their salvation is more like the movement of a windshield wiper.  Saved.  Lost.  Saved.  Lost.  This creates doubts, fears, concerns, discouragement, and loss of joy.  Under that system, one can never know if death will overtake him before he can correctly identify his actions as lawlessness and correct it.  He must constantly be concerned, not only about himself, but of the congregation he attends.  Any infraction of one or both will condemn him!  Perfection in doctrine and practice is expected of both individual and congregation.  To cover all the bases, such an individual will often pray, “Lord, forgive me for any transgressions I may have which I am unaware of.”  Fear of the unknown only adds to his stress.  Any change in his traditional practices generates fear that he is breaking law and again experiencing fellowship with Satan!

The law of Christ teaches that justification is by faith not an impossible perfection that we are to reach and maintain (Ephesians 2:8-10).  That faith is in Jesus as our Savior whether that faith is like the eunuch’s, the Samaritans’, or those on Pentecost.  Jesus paid it all.  We die to sin and are buried with him to receive a new life (Romans 6:1-6).  Jesus took all, not part of our sins, and in return bestowed upon us his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Included in his righteousness is his continually cleansing blood (1 John 1:7-10).  We may stumble in our imperfections, but Jesus’ blood is sufficient in its coverage.  Deny his blood and lose its cleansing.  Some did (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:25-29).  However, we are not in that group.  We believe to the saving of our souls (Hebrew 10:38-39).  Our faith is in Jesus’ perfection.  Therefore, we do not put our faith in our ability to achieve our own perfection.  Our obedience is not meritorious.  Obedience is not our “gold” offered to be applied as payment for our sins.  We don’t pay for our sins!  Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe!  Do we still sing that song?  If so, do we believe what we are singing?

Israel was given the opportunity to learn that one is not justified by the works of the law, but many did not accept that truth.  Some who are believers today assume that they are justified by keeping law.  Yet their “perfection” is only an illusion gifted by Satan.  I pray that reality will sink in and believers will put their trust in Jesus to save and abandon the idea that they are their own justifier.  Satan’s lie that we are to be equal with Jesus as our Savior, because we can keep law like he did, is the biggest deception fostered upon mankind today!


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom.”  (Matthew 4:23 NIV).

TraditionIn the first century, the synagogue was second to the Temple in Jerusalem.  After the Temple was destroyed by Titus’ army in 70 A.D., synagogues became primary in Jewish worship.

The worship at the synagogue usually included readings from the Torah (Law of Moses) and the Prophets (Acts 15:21).  These or other passages would be interpreted or preached from (Acts 17:2).  There were also prayers.  Singing was produced by a “Levitical choir” in both the Temple and synagogue.  Eight instruments: the harp, lyre, ram’s horn, trumpet, small drum, cymbal, bell, and flute are mentioned.  Since women did not serve as Levite priests, the chanting was done by men.  Four-part harmony was not found “in the church” for many centuries.

The worship in the Temple had a prayer taken from Deuteronomy 6:4. There was also the prayer of the heart, based on Deuteronomy 11:13.  These prayers were also chanted.  Purity was expected from those who came to make their monetary offerings as well as sacrifices (Mark 12:41).  Levite singers performed in the Temple area as well as in the synagogues, being accompanied with the instruments.

Luke informs us, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52 NIV).  As a Jewish boy, he would have attended and worshiped at the synagogue.  As he became a man, he would go through the different ceremonies signaling manhood.  Jesus went to the Temple’s Court of Women and sat near the treasury (Mark 12:41).  We find six passages in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John where Jesus went to the synagogue where worship took place, taking his turn to examine the scriptures and preach.  Due to his wisdom and authoritative teaching, he was referred to as a Rabbi or teacher (John 1:38, 49; 3:2, 26; 6:25).

Although Jesus had no sins, as a Jew he participated in paying the Temple tax of Exodus 30:11-16 (Matthew 17:24-27).  There isn’t a passage specifically saying Jesus offered animal sacrifices through the Levite priesthood.  Yet, he did keep the Law of Moses which includes that practice.  If he refused to make any sacrifices, it would have been a weighty accusation to lay on his shoulders.  He was never charged with that neglect.  Jesus kept the Law perfectly as he worshiped at both synagogue and Temple.  He even kept Jewish religious practices that originated from tradition rather than scripture.

Synagogue worship began with the Jews in Babylonian captivity.  Those who returned to Palestine brought the practice with them.  There is no biblical authority for the synagogue.  It is the child of their transgression.  Because of their sins, they were cut off from the Temple and Jerusalem.  So, they substituted.  God did not give them that authority.  Yet, the practice was never condemned.  In fact, Jesus accepted it and participated in it as if the silence of the scriptures authorized it.

When the Passover meal was commanded, nothing is said about a cup nor its content being included (Exodus 12).  God did not authorize it.  Its origin is not known.  Yet, these changes which God’s word did not authorize were accepted.  These additions became their religious tradition.  Even Jesus accepted this cup, without a biblical background, and incorporated it into his memorial supper as representing his blood (Matthew 26:27-28).  There are multiple articles attempting to extricate the Lord from these “unauthorized” actions.  These traditions didn’t bother Jesus, who saved himself for more important things (Luke 22:44).  The problem isn’t with Jesus’ acceptance, but rather man’s interpretative patterns.

Jesus’ actions don’t always fit our thinking.  Some wish to eliminate John 8:1-11 because the Lord was supposed to condemn the woman.  He didn’t.  Jesus doesn’t always live up to our expectations.  We are supposed to live up to his!  He is the Savior, not us.  We are to obey his words, he isn’t supposed to march to our thoughts.  If salvation was left to our whims, each “way” would degrade to the ridiculous.  It isn’t surprising that men believe God’s way is lacking.  Different gospels are taught and bound.  This was true, even in the first century in the church (Galatians 1:6-9; Acts 15:1; Galatians 5:1-4).

Some see patterns where there are none.  Some see “church” actions which weren’t.  Some fail to see some that are essential.  Some want to make it impossible to be saved.  Others want a follow a do nothing way that removes all responsibility.  There is a biblical lesson for all from Jesus’ acceptance of religious traditions which we need to discover.  There is also one from John 8.  Jesus’ daily life was not one where he was attempting to find his way.  It is one where he was teaching us how to find our way to him!  Sadly, too many are looking in the wrong direction.


Monday, August 28, 2017

InterpretationPaul informs us that “all scripture” is “inspired by God and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,” and “for instructions in righteousness(2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Then man steps in!  What is the proper interpretation?  Even when men were inspired by the Holy Spirit, divisions were introduced and had to be corrected (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).  Even inspired individuals were in those denominated groups.  They allowed misunderstandings, based on love for a preacher, to be their guide rather than the Spirit’s teaching (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)!

Some interpretations begin innocently, but later develop into broad misunderstandings.  This may happen when an interpretation is accepted as heaven sent.  Sometimes one extreme creates another.  For example, Martin Luther believed one was justified by faith, but his religious heritage thought it was through justification by works.   Alexander Campbell saw church traditions as detrimental to Christian unity and called for a return to the Bible.  Yet, during his lifetime, the “Restoration Movement” developed a crack.  That “tear” was due to misinterpretation.  This developed into a multiplicity of divisions.

One interpretative rule in the writings of Martin Luther (1483-1546), Zwingli (1484-1531) and others was, “The silence of the Scriptures is prohibitive.”  Another way of saying it is, “If the Bible doesn’t teach it, we cannot do it.”  Its application has often been misapplied by those who advocate it.  Some alter the slogan with, “Silence prohibits your actions, but not mine!”

Some believe silence is a scriptural reason for remaining on “the old paths.” “Sunday School” or “Bible classes” are not mentioned in scripture.  Does that silence prohibit?  Sunday School originated with the Anglicans, not from scripture.  I cannot find a small table with the inscription, “Do This In Remembrance of Me” in Matthew, Mark, Luke or 1 Corinthians.  Is it prohibited? I can’t find a passage commanding me to have such a table and call it “the Lord’s table.”  With or without, neither practice would be wrong.  There are many things being practice today that are not mentioned in scripture.  Are those practices prohibited?  It depends upon who is being asked!

Must one be bound by a view or practice that is not in scripture?  Some believe it can be.  How many still believe it is a sin to go to the movies?  That was condemned by preachers in the early part of the twentieth century.  How many believe it is a sin to mow your lawn on Sunday afternoon?  How many believe it is a sin of disrespect to not wear your very best clothing Sunday morning?  How many believe one must be immersed in a river, pond, stream or lake to be valid?  How many believe God authorized only the King James Version?  How many believe “thee” and “thou” must be used in prayer to show reverence to God?  How many believe a prayer must begin or end “in the name of Jesus” to be valid?  How many believe a baptism is not valid if the words in Acts 2:38 are not repeated before immersion?  How many believe an invitation must be offered or one is not preaching the gospel?  Misunderstandings and misapplications have reigned for centuries.

Failure to recognize the differences between the first and second covenant is a misunderstanding.  For example, some believe when Jesus and the apostles “sung” a hymn, that the word “sung” authorized singing, but eliminated the instrument (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26).  Even if Jesus and his apostles sang without one, it wasn’t because it was wrong for them to accompany their singing with an instrument.  To use those two passages and apply them to “church worship,” is a misapplication, since they were under the first, not the second covenant.  The second covenant was still future because Jesus had not ratified it with his blood, the church had not been established, so there would not be any church assemblies to offer worship prior to the cross or before Pentecost (Acts 2)!

Some may not in good conscience practice something which another has no problem doing (Romans 14:23).  Neither may bind his personal belief upon another (Galatians 5:1-6).  Each is to respect the other person’s differences (Romans 14).  Man has a hard time learning and applying Paul’s lesson.  In the first century, after Acts 10, there were two different congregations.  One was Jewish and  the other Gentile.  Sometimes culture and tradition are powerful tools in shaping one’s beliefs, although Jesus left us the example of accepting and engaging in Jewish religious practices which were more tradition than scripture.  He did not consider them to be prohibitive because they were not mentioned in scripture.

The differences among followers of Jesus illustrate how enormous this problem is!  Jesus prayed for unity, but his plea has been ignored by those who call upon his name (John 17:20-21).


Thursday, August 24, 2017

diamond ringThe preacher appears wearing a suit, shirt, tie and shoes that 98% of his congregation will never afford.  His watch is a Rolex and his finger supporting a gold ring decorated with a very large diamond.  He owns a chauffeur driven luxury car and a jet that will transport a dozen people.  His house, worth millions, has no mortgage.  He reminds his audience, that if they will give liberally, God will double or triple it back to them.  Look how the Lord has blessed him!  He empties their pockets to replenish his.  His congregation numbers into the thousands and his radio and TV audience is counted into the millions!  Rather than leave him in disappointment, people flock to his church seeking his faith so they may share in his kind of lifestyle!

If those material things fail to come to a member, he reminds him that this failure is due to a lack of faith.  He tells stories of those who do believe and how they have contributed a thousand dollars to his ministry and a week later a check arrived that equaled twice what they had given!  Out of guilt, his audience continues to contribute to his opulence.  The heaviness of their guilt is seen in their sacrificial giving.  They will do without in order to have the same faith he possesses.

The preacher informs his audience that God has blessed him with divine miraculous power.  If someone seeks healing and it doesn’t happen, it is not his nor God’s fault, but because the individual being healed doesn’t have the proper faith.  Yet, his audiences continue to swell.  People are told that the devil will continue to give them the symptoms, but they are to deny they have them.  If they doubt, the ailment will return.  Again, the fault lies in their lack of faith.  Some become so despondent when nothing happens that depression overwhelms them.  Again, they are charged with having too little faith.  So, they dig deeper to give him more!

Some relative may see through this “get rich gospel” and attempt to extract his loved one from this church.  The relative is seen, not as a helper, but an agent of Satan.  Adherents of that view have been told that Abraham had wealth because of his faith and David enjoyed being king because of his, therefore, they need to follow this view to have that same kind of faith.  They can have it by supporting the preacher!  Give him a dollar and two or three will be returned to them by the Lord.

“Get rich quick,” is tied in with one’s faith, but it produces a lot of money for those who peddle that gospel, not the payee!  These preachers seek those who have little Bible knowledge.  They want people who don’t know the scriptures well enough to identify the view for what it is.  It is a religious scam to quickly make the peddlers rich!  They keep their sheep corralled by telling them disbelief in the pew is at fault.  No honest, sincere believer wants to own a weak faith.  So, they try harder and dig deeper into their pockets to support the opulence of the preacher.  Making him rich will one day lead to the same life style for them that he enjoys.  God has ordained it because the preacher says so!

Too bad those preachers don’t practice what they preach and give all their wealth to their membership.  Why not?  If what he preaches is correct, let him wait on God and soon the mailman will bring him a check that is twice or three times more than the fortune he gave away!  When he is sick, don’t go to the hospital, call other preachers to come in and miraculously heal him.  Going to a doctor, entering the hospital, or having surgery would show a lack of faith on his part!

In the first century money was given by members into the first day of the week collection to aid those who had benevolent needs in other places.  In Acts 2, at the beginning of the church, the same thing took place (Acts 2:45).  It wasn’t given to make the apostles, prophets, and evangelists rich!  Jesus himself did not ride from town to town in a silver and gold chariot, drawn by six horses, with a hired driver.  Jesus didn’t have a house of his own.  Neither did the soldiers gamble at the cross for his gold diamond ring or his expensive wardrobe.  Were he and his apostles weak in faith because they were not blessed with wealth?  Is that why they were without what these modern preachers enjoy?

J.D. Greear made this statement,

“The primary purpose of giving is not that God would get money out of our pockets, but he would get the idols out of our heart.”

Perhaps some who seek to get rich by following such schemes or giving to the wrong person and for the wrong reason!

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